Sven Keller und Jürgen Finger: Der Bielefelder Kunsthallenstreit 1968. Mäzenatentum, Memoria und NS-Vergangenheit im Hause Oetker. In: Osterloh, Jörg; Wixforth, Harald (Hrsg.): Unternehmer und NS-Verbrechen. Wirtschaftseliten im “Dritten Reich” und in der Bundesrepublik, eds. Jörn Osterloh; Harald Wixforth (Wissenschaftliche Reihe des Fritz Bauer Instituts 23), Frankfurt/New York 2014, S. 331-361 (ISBN 978-3-593-39979-9).
In 1968, the newly built ‘Kunsthalle’ in Bielefeld, a medium-sized industrial town situated in the eastern part of Westphalia, not only aroused the passion of the locals but also attracted the attention of national and international media. The art museum was to be named after Richard Kaselowsky, a regional business leader during 1920s and 1930s – and: a member of the ‘Freundeskreis Reichsführer SS’, a circle of managers and high officials gathered around Heinrich Himmler. Kaselowsky, who had died during a bombing raid in 1944, was the stepfather of Rudolf-August Oetker, heir of the Oetker family business and important figure of Western German industry during and after the Wirtschaftswunder. Oetker covered a major part of the construction costs and chose the name of his stepfather for the new museum. As Kaselowsky’s commitment to the Nazi Party was evident and well-known at least to older citizens, a growing number of critics, especially local left-wing youth groups, questioned the naming: Should a museum in post-war democratic Germany be named ‘Richard-Kaselowsky-Haus’?
Scandalisation and a protest movement, sit-ins and pamphlets provoked increasingly nervous reactions by the mayor, by councillors and by the party men of the Oetker family. The starting point may have been the implication of a single person in the Nazi regime. However, after just a short time, the discussions got more fundamental: Kaselowsky was cited as an example for the role which bourgeoisie and corporate Germany allegedly played in the ascent and under the rule of National Socialism. Secondly, the young Germans challenged the influence a business man like Oetker exerted on local politics, on the shaping of public space and of collective memory by imposing the ‘Kaselowsky Kunsthalle’: An act of patronage, which wouldn’t have been questioned just some years before. And, last but not least, both sides blamed one another for a lack of democratic tolerance: The establishment reproached the protesters for not respecting the decisions of the elected people’s representatives. Quite the contrary, the protesters were appalled by politics which seemed to be dominated by dignitaries and slanted towards a mere formal understanding of democratic procedures.
In analysing these three lines of interpretation, this study explores a specific generational experience that contributed to the transformation of German society on the whole since the 1960’s. By examining the Bielefeld case in depth, the study offers a distinct perspective on the 1968 youth movement outside the large cities and beyond the student movement.